I honestly can’t say I’m shocked the Giants went out and got a (at least by name) “big bat” – it was clearly a need and there weren’t a ton of affordable options out there, thus, we have Hunter Pence.
The 29 year old outfielder has fantastic numbers at AT&T Park (although small sample size) with a career line of .329/.366/.566/.932 to go along with 5 HR in 20 career games. His left field approach fits well in the NL West and he’ll certainly add some pop to a Giants lineup in need of some punch. But how much of an upgrade is it? First, let’s look at the price tag…
Returning to Philadelphia will be outfielder Nate Schierholtz, minor league pitcher Seth Rosen and the centerpiece of the deal, catching prospect Tommy Joseph. We’re all aware of what Schierholtz can and can’t do – one of the streakiest hitters in the game, he can carry a club offensively for a few days and then lay dormant for weeks (even months) on end. Defensively, Nate brings a power arm and solid instincts, but his lack of consistency offensively regulated him as a spot starter/bench player. As one of the last remaining members of the 2010 World Series team, Nate will be missed more for his longevity and highlight throws than his actual performances. In addition to Nate, burly arm Seth Rosen will also be heading to Philadelphia in the deal, more or less as a throw-in to satisfy the Phillie front office. Rosen, who has a solid fastball and changeup struggled to add any breaking pitches to his arsenal, which resulted in the Giants moving the former Minnesota Gopher to the ‘pen. There are plenty of questions concerning his ability to advance through the ranks and it’s doubtful he’ll ever see much meaningful time at the big boy level. Moving onto the key piece in the trade, at least for the Phillies in Tommy Joseph. The second round pick in the 2009 draft now finds himself out of the shadow of Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez, a move that was going to be required for the powerful catcher to be successful. With Posey and Sanchez (and to a lesser extent, Andrew Susac), the Giants clearly felt comfortable with their current catching core and if Joseph was to stay in the Giants organization, a position change could’ve been in his future. The 21 year old backstop should have solid success with the Phillies and could possibly find himself as their starting catcher if Carlos Ruiz departs after the 2013 season.
It’s a very solid pickup for the Phillies, although, it’s clear as talented as Joseph is – they overpaid severely last season for Hunter Pence, giving up two of their top prospects (both better than Joseph, IMO). The move allows them to get something solid in return for Pence and clear off some hefty payroll – they could’ve done far worse.
As to the Giants, I don’t believe this is a panic move to match what the Dodgers have done. As stated above, the Giants clearly needed some offensive help and there weren’t a lot of deals to be had for a bigger bat. They’ve been stuck in a platoon of Gregor Blanco and Nate Schierholtz which wasn’t getting the job done, nor has the extended slump of Angel Pagan. Pence’s hard nosed style of play will be a fan favorite and his offensive ability will certainly bolster the Giants’ lineup, especially when Pablo Sandoval returns.
The package the Giants sent out was relatively cheap, all things considered, given Joseph was all but blocked in the system, Schierholtz a role player and Rosen probably at best a AAAA pitcher. It’s hard to be upset at the price tag, especially for a two time, 29 year old All-Star under team control for a season and a half and some cash to offset part of the added salary. The issue the Giants may have is financial since Pence will be do for an arbitrational raise at season end. Between he and Melky (assuming the Giants do re-sign the MelkMan), the Giants will have a very expensive outfield which will hamper their ability to do any shopping in the 2013 free agent market. There is a significant amount of money coming off the books (Huff, Rowand, Wilson, Affeldt, etc) so it’s not as if the Giants wont be able to afford Pence and Melky, it’s just that those two (combined with the other arbitrational raises) and some minor deals might make for a quiet offseason in the free agent market. Then again, if Pence doesn’t perform, he could be on the move again this off-season to alleviate some financial stress.
All in all – it’s a good deal for both sides. The Phillies get salary relief and some solid talent for Pence and the Giants give up a prospect who was organizationally blocked, while keeping their other high quality prospects in the system. I do question exactly how much Pence will help, but it’s an upgrade no matter how you slice it. A lineup with a middle order of Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence is something that should put a smile on the face of all Giant fans.